Robert Hariman

Robert Hariman (born 1951) is a professor of rhetoric and public culture at the department of communication studies at Northwestern University. He is the author of Political Style: The Artistry of Power (University of Chicago Press, 1995) and two volumes co-authored with John Louis Lucaites: No Caption Needed: Iconic Photographs, Public Culture, and Liberal Democracy (University of Chicago Press, 2007) and The Public Image: Photography and Civic Spectatorship (University of Chicago Press, 2016). His other publications include edited volumes on popular trials, prudence, post-realism, and the texture of political action, as well as journal articles on parody, allegory, banality, and other modes of public address. His work has been translated into French and Chinese. He and Lucaites post occasionally on photojournalism, politics, society, and culture at their blog Nocaptionneeded.com.

Breaking of the convention is an argument for certain kind of authenticity. A grimaced face is not a posed face, therefore it must be an authentic, truly expressive face, the real face.

In the interview, Robert Hariman talks about his latest co-authored book The Public Image: Photography and Civic Spectatorship (University of Chicago Press, 2016), presenting the main argument that they put forward with John Louis Lucaites – that a paradigm shift is needed within the field of photographic theory in order to understand the changing social role of photography in contemporary societies. They argue for a redefinition of the medium’s burden of representation, embracing its limitations and treating it as a small language, firmly embedded within the notion of the vernacular. This move beyond simple politics of representation, he argues, should however not be apolitical. In fact, the paradigm shift is needed to re-politicise photography and therefore increase its political efficacy in the wake of unsustainability of the dominant neoliberal socio-economic order and the specific catastrophic idea of progress which it promotes.

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